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Aquitania: Los Angeles Times

Lyrical 'Aquitania' Works Wonders
Logic makes way for the fable's visuals and music.

A work of haunting visual beauty and mythological resonance, "Aquitania" at the Gascon Center Theatre continues author-director Stephen Legawiec’s inventive synthesis of stage, dance, and song in a whimsical fable that plays off the archetypal heroic quest.
With stylistic and thematic nods to such eclectic sources of inspiration as Lewis Carroll and the surrealist painter Rene Magritte, this new production from Legawiec’s Ziggurat Theatre Company transforms the Gascon Center Theatre into a playground of the unconscious. An arcing backdrop painted like Magritte's cloud-dappled, bright blue skies, game-board floor tiling on which the characters can move as pieces, and incidental antique furnishings set the stage for exploring, as one character puts it, "the secret part of life that can't be explained."
That mission should be taken to heart--let the music and visuals work their magic without undue analysis. You'll miss the point if you try to parse a logical plot out of the exploits of the reluctant heroine, punfully-named Marguerite (Kiersten Van Horne), a librarian transported--"Alice"-like--back in time to the 9th century reign of Charlemagne. There, she must free the imaginary kingdom of Aquitania from the delightfully evil despot, Gano (Frederick Stone, whimsically costumed as one of Magritte's bland, bowler-hatted businessmen).
Magic spells, mystic rituals and plot reversals abound as Marguerite and her allies (Dean Purvis, Sharon McMahon, Colleen Kane) attempt to save the day. Naila Azad plays the disruptive witch, abetted by a trio of copper-haired chanteuses. A subplot involving a little girl (Britney Anne Tuba, Morgan Luci) and her tutor (Michael Klock) frames the action as a game, complete with one of those "undo" maneuvers we all wish we had in real life.

— PHILIP BRANDES, Special to The Times


Aquitania: Hollywood Reporter

"Aquitania" -- the latest 100-minute mythic creation by visionary Stephen Legawiec -- is playful, thoughtful and inspired.

While other artistic directors struggle with their theatrical seasons, Legawiec and his Ziggurat Theatre are content to create performances inspired by world myths.

Within these myths, Legawiec asserts, we can share a common identity -- especially in our culturally diverse City of Angels, where we sorely lack a collective past or identity. And as myths cross cultural boundaries and defy rational explanations, the Ziggurat ensemble has created an onstage ritual art form that combines text, singing, music, dance and spectacle.

"Aquitania," as told by writer-director Legawiec and the talented Ziggurat group, is a blend of things deft and daft.

At first we see a young girl (the appealing Britney Anne Tuba) at an oversized chess set. While she ponders her moves, she is in-structed by the wise Malagigi (the capable Michael Klock), who tells her the story of the mythic mountain kingdom of Aquitania.

Suddenly, we are transported by three Aquitanians (Mary Kate Karr, Lauren Clark and Helle Schoubye), a Greek chorus singing French ballads. Aquitania is at war. While King Charles (Charlemagne) goes off to fight the renegades, the wise, resourceful king has sent for Marguerite, who was a child in Aquitania, to help win back the mountain.

But there are problems. Marguerite (the capable Kiersten Van Horne) is now a librarian, a bookworm without much of an imagination. The message of "Aquitania" is that we must learn to nourish our imaginations because that's the source from which myths spring.

So Marguerite goes on her spiritual, imaginative journey to save the kingdom. She encounters the gentle Roland (Dean Purvis), the spacey Fleurdelis (Jenny Woo), the sturdy Bradamente (Sharon McMahon), the crafty witch Ilaska (Naila Azad), the outrageous fisher's apprentice Fobliar (Colleen Kane) and the evil Gano (Frederick Stone). All are first-rate.



Aquitania: LA Weekly

The latest bit of ultrastylized surrealism from writer-director Stephen Legawiec’s Ziggurat Theater Company, Aquitania is nothing less than a feast of dance, music, classic storytelling and visual bravura that will dazzle — whether or not its kaleidoscope of mytho-poetic references holds meaning for you. A reluctant heroine, Marguerite (Kiersten Van Horne), must save mythic Aquitania — mismanaged by the feckless Roland (Dean Purvis) and his ditzy love interest, Fleurdelis (Jenny Woo) — from the villainous Gano (Fredric Stone), who, in turn, presses into his cause a daffy 500-year-old recluse (the marvelous Naila Azad) and gnomelike Fobliar (Colleen Kane). The ensuing battle between good and evil is actually Marguerite’s voyage of self-discovery. But Susan Chris tiansen’s hypnotic music score, brought to life by the warbling voices of Mary Kate Karr (music director), Helle Schoubye and Lauren Clark (all in matching salmon dresses by Robert Velasquez) singing entirely en Français, as well as the cast’s tightly choreographed moves, combine to make this densely laden narrative a sensorial cornucopia. Meanwhile, Aquitania slips in the age-old conundrum of science versus religion, excavating the truths that lie beneath the surface of all the great myths. Gascon Center Theater, 8737 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 17. (310) 495-0252.




Ziggurat Zings

A colleague, Dany Margolies, suggested I go see Ziggurat Theatre Company's production of Aquitania at Gascon Center Theatre. So I did, with high expectations. Still, I was unprepared for the shimmering beauty, resonance, ensemble integrity, and overall impact of this unusual theatrical experience. Jan Kott, theatre critic, teacher, author of The Theatre of Essence, once told me he finds American theatre too commercial, its non-commercial theatre too amateurish, and "both in need of a little bit of ritual." Kott, formerly of Poland, now of Santa Monica, should see Aquitania. He'll find the ritual he seeks, no whiff of commercialism, and no amateurs, unless you define amateur as lover of the art.

It was my introduction to this remarkable Ziggurat Theatre Company, which somehow (I'm ashamed to admit) had escaped my notice. Theatres hereabouts have grown exponentially since 1980. There are several exciting new ones. That name is intriguing right off. Have you noticed that words beginning with "z," or have a few "z's" in them, are special? I have. That name, "Ziggurat," sent me to both dictionary and encyclopedia, to learn that a ziggurat is a temple tower in the form of a terraced pyramid, with a shrine on top, attributed variously to Babylonians, Assyrians, and/or Mesopotamians, maybe all three. This is very interesting but doesn't tell you all you want to know. An aura of the arcane hovers.

Mystery deepens. We learn that this group, founded in 1996 by Stephan Legawiec, originally called itself Gilgamesh. Another enigma. Let us know more about Gilgamesh! I take it he was some kind of ancient VIP or emperor, but so far I haven't found much on him. It's Stephan Legawiec, himself, who is really intriguing, the one who thought up these names, created this company, helmed it through various permutations, and, believe me, is some kind of theatrical virtuoso. This young man does everything, and well. He wrote Aquitania, directed it, designed its set, and obviously is this group's inspiration. An actor, as well, he has appeared in previous company productions: Ninshaba, at Glaxa Studios; Hammergirl, also at Glaxa; The Medicine Show, in site-specific Coldwater Canyon Park, and Chomolungma (The Mountain) at Gascon Center.

Program notes say Legawiec (Le GAHV yetz) is the son of composer/violinist Walter Legawiec, has a B.F.A. in design and illustration from Washington University in St. Louis, did post-graduate work in theatre at Cornell and Rutgers universities, and studied at the American Mime Theatre. I'm guessing, but that name suggests Polish ethnic heritage. Since knowing the towering, princely, one-of-a-kind (unfortunately, late) Leonidas Dudarew Ossetynski, I have been most favorably impressed by Polish heritage, especially regarding theatre.

I want to know more about this pure, dedicated, myth-and-ritual-oriented theatre company Ziggurat that creates such hauntingly beautiful theatre.



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